Cultivating a Thriving Christian School Series: Addressing Major Components for Institutional Health in Christian Schools
By Dr. S. L. Sherrill
Education has been defined as “the process by which children and youth develop knowledge, skills, and character, especially through formal instruction, training, and study.” According to Webster’s Dictionary, philosophy is “a pursuit of wisdom; a search for truth through logical reasoning; an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs.” The Greeks defined philosophy as “the love and pursuit of knowledge and truth.” Adding Christianity, the indispensable ingredient, our philosophy of kingdom education is like an artist who steps back from his work to view the masterpiece in its entirety. How he relates the parts to each other and the whole reveals the mastery and success of his work. The effectiveness and outreach of our ministries hinge upon the development of our philosophy of kingdom education.
Dr. Glen Schultz defines the philosophy of Christian education in a broader sense as kingdom education which is “a life-long, Bible-based, Christ-centered process of leading a child to Christ, building a child up in Christ, and equipping a child to serve Christ.” This definition identifies the five pillars of a true philosophy of kingdom education: Bible-based, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-controlled, pupil-related, and social-oriented.
BIBLE-BASED: The Bible-based philosophy of kingdom education presents the Bible as the foundation of all knowledge. Every aspect of education must be integrated into God’s truth. The scope of God’s truth is universal. God’s truth is not dependent upon what education does. The integration of education should merge into a living union with God’s truth. A living union of all aspects of education must take place.
The truth must be the unifying factor between the home, church, and school, and they must establish their precepts upon the Bible. Their premise must be that all truth is God’s truth; their communication must speak the truth in love seasoned with grace, and their conduct must speak louder than words, realizing the powerful influence of godly behavior. The result will be children of integrity and honesty balanced by God’s Word and fit for the Master’s use: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Let us integrate the truth in every discipline: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). May the truth come alive in their hearts.
CHRIST-CENTERED: The Christ-centered philosophy of kingdom education recognizes that Jesus Christ is our authority and Lord of truth: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus Christ is our foundation: “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). The Lord is our wisdom and knowledge: “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). The Son of God is our stability: “Rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught” (Col. 2:7).
Christ is to have preeminence in all things. Dr. Paul Kienel said, “The purpose of Christian school education is to show children and young people how to face Christ and then with the vision of Christ in their hearts to face the present world and the world to come.” We should lead our students to salvation in Christ, build them up in their faith, and equip them to serve Him. The result will be a spiritual haven where Christ reigns and learning is paramount. Oswald Chambers said it best: “The sweet sign that God has done a work of grace in our hearts is that we love Jesus Christ best; not weakly and faintly, not intellectually, but passionately, personally, and devotedly, overwhelming every other love of our lives.” This is the work of a Christ-centered philosophy of kingdom education.
HOLY SPIRIT-CONTROLLED: The Holy Spirit-controlled philosophy of kingdom education acknowledges the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of parents, teachers, and students. The parents and teachers must have His guidance to impart the truth to their students effectively and appropriately: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). Parents and teachers must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to think Christianly and communicate the truth in the education of their children effectively.
Students need the leadership of the Spirit to be image-bearers of Christ. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The Holy Spirit correctly focuses the student’s knowledge to bring about moral conformity to the image of God’s Son. Ultimately, this image-bearing will result in godly character.
PUPIL-RELATED: The pupil-related philosophy of kingdom education focuses on what God intends every child to be. Parents and teachers understand that each child is a special creation of God (Ps. 139) and made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Yet, due to sin, they are fallen and in need of a Savior. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Every child can be saved and be who God intended them to be. Ephesians 2:10 shares that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.”
Kingdom education is to instill in a child the knowledge of God, guide him in developing his personal faith, and help him establish his biblical worldview. Parents and teachers are to teach children to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They are to share that they can have a transforming, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Their ministry is to assist students in formulating a Christian mind able to think and act according to biblical principles: “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3 NKJV). A pupil-related philosophy of education prepares a student to impact society and bring glory to the Lord.
SOCIAL-ORIENTED: The socially oriented philosophy of kingdom education teaches young people how to interact and relate with the world. The student understands that all of life is God’s. There is no secular and sacred; all truth is God’s truth. The parents and teachers integrate faith and biblical values into a lifestyle reflecting a Christian worldview by example and instruction to their students.
This Bible-based belief system determines the students’ attitudes in life and leads to holy and responsible life choices: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). Students with this biblical worldview model Ephesians 4:12: “for the equipping [maturing] of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” As Bible-based, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-controlled believers, they have become an imitation of their parents and teachers (Luke 6:40). They are modeling the image of the Lord Jesus. This is the mastery and success of the philosophy of kingdom education and brings honor and glory to God.
CONCLUSION: The pillars of the philosophy of kingdom education are foundational and transformational. As kingdom educators, we must “educate for eternity.” We are teaching children how to make a living and make a life with a biblical worldview and eternity in mind. Luke 2:52 states, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” The philosophy of kingdom education speaks to the education of the whole child: academically, physically, spiritually, and socially. Our prayer is that God will give us kingdom educators who are grounded in the Word of God; who give Christ the preeminence in all things; who are led by the Spirit of God; and who are focused on what God intends every child to be. These young champions for Jesus will be prepared to transform the world for the glory of God!
Dr. S. L. Sherrill is the Founder and Superintendent Emeritus of North Raleigh Christian Academy. During his 23 years there, God used Doc to establish NRCA as an ACSI flagship school of 1,450 students. He brings over 50 years of service to the position of Senior Executive Consultant for RenewaNation. Doc has served as a Head of School, Youth Pastor, Associate Pastor, and Senior Pastor. Currently, he is the ACSI NC, SC, VA Field Director overseeing 185 schools. Doc is an annual speaker at the Kingdom School Institute and does professional development, policy governance, and strategic planning for Christian schools and boards across the country. Through Christian School 101, a program he developed, Doc has helped establish over 40 Christian schools across the southeast. He is President of the Board for NACS (formerly SBACS) and Joshua Expeditions. Doc holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Tennessee Temple University, Master of Theology and Doctor of Theology Degrees from Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, and Master of Christian Education and Doctor of Christian Education Degrees from Faith Seminary.